Friday, October 23, 2009

Net Neutrality, Slippery Slopes & High-Tech Mutually Assured Destruction — Technology Liberation Front

One can imagine how some might use such language to accuse Google of being in “a dominant cloud computing position” such that “the context of network neutrality” will be applied to cloud service (like Google Voice) to “modify the existing balance between regulatory and market forces” through regulation. Indeed, that’s precisely what AT&T has suggested in recent letters (September 25th and October 14th) to the FCC.

AT&T’s partner Apple has already been the subject of such attacks for its decision to block the Google Voice app earlier this summer. The incident marked the beginning of open warfare between Google and AT&T/Apple. The FCC quickly jumped into the mix, first questioning how Apple manages its iTunes apps store for the iPhone, then questioning how Google runs its free Voice application. What legal authority the FCC has over either service is far from clear, but Apple seems to have gotten the message: It recently approved the Spotify music streaming app for the iPhone, which could be a serious competitive threat to the iTunes music store. This small incident highlights how easily regulators can impose their will through informal mechanisms like open-ended investigations even without clear authority to issue rules or bring enforcement actions. Yet none dare call it what it is: regulatory blackmail.

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